Through the glass walls of IDP country director Sreng Mao’s office on the first floor of the Australian Centre for Education, Santhor Mak Campus, he can see young university-aged students vigorously studying in the computer lab.
Without a vacant seat in the adjacent room, there is quiet collegiate air as western teachers stride back and forth, ready to answer questions. The students—attentively fixed on their course work that includes writing and reading tests, as well as computer-assisted language learning software—are developing their English language proficiency.
“With four campuses in Cambodia, three in Phnom Penh and one in Siem Reap, we teach an average of 12,000 students a year. And our fourth location, near the Russian Market, just opened and we already have classes near full capacity,” said Mao.
With 17 years of experience working at ACE and its affiliate, IDP Education, Mao has witnessed the changing demand in English Language Training (ELT) in Cambodia.
“ACE was first established in Cambodia in 1992 by IDP Education,” he said. IDP Education, an Australian-based organization, has over 40 years of experience. As one of the world’s largest student placement firms, IDP Education has over 70 student offices in 24 countries and has placed over 300,000 students internationally.
When the first campus opened its aim was to provide English language training to those supporting the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).
“That is when we first gained the reputation for our quality education programmes,” said Mao.
Shortly after that, ACE expanded their educational ambitions by introducing their services into the public realm, Mao explained.
“With over twenty years of experience in providing the highest standards, we are widely considered to be the leading provider in English language training (ELT),” he said. “Our education programmes get a lot of very positive feedback internationally. And we are receptive to the changing demands of ELT programmes in Cambodia.”
ACE has met the needs of Cambodia’s dynamic economic growth by offering a multitude of programmes for students as young as eight years old.
The most popular is the General English Programme. From there, ACE has launched a diversity of professional offers including Business English which focuses on networking, negotiation, proposal writing and reporting skills.
Their English for Academic Purposes course helps those pursuing a master’s degree. The course schedule includes researching, problem solving and critical thinking skills. Additionally, further specialized courses include medical English, finance and accounting, as well as hospitality training.
While English is the bridge language of the ASEAN, their newest advanced programme, aptly named English for ASEAN, is one of the timeliest and forward-thinking programmes on offer to date.
“The programme is designed to equip Cambodians for the upcoming free flow of labour [in ASEAN]. It gives our students a well-rounded education to increase their chances of employment not just in Cambodia, but also abroad. It teaches our students how to manage cultural differences while educating them about the various ASEAN countries,” said Mao.
Apart from learning English for ASEAN the students learn from various industry leaders who visit classes to understand real world business case studies in order to enhance their professional development, while also having networking opportunities.
“This will create a vital recruiting ground for successful candidates. Also, the English for ASEAN programme teaches students about different political practices across the region.”
“The key to the success of this programme is that it is proactive and robust. It focuses on future demand. We are helping to prepare our students with specific examples of their upcoming employment opportunities,” said Mao.
“The skills that we are teaching allow our students to understand the international standards that are required in business. And, in the future, it will show the ASEAN community the capability of Cambodian professionals,” he said.
“We are proud to be a leader in English Language Training in Cambodia. And we are proud to help our students succeed and reach their maximum potential.”